If there’s one thing more difficult than dating, it’s dieting. Whether you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, regained previously shed pounds or just want to lose a few, you’ve decided you’re going to (finally) revamp your diet. But now what? Should you go vegan…try the military diet…or maybe eat according to your blood type? The options are endless — and there aren’t any apps that allow you to swipe your way to a perfect match.
Just like how long-term relationship success lies in finding the right person for you, the secret sauce for lasting weight loss lies in identifying a diet that works for you. But with so many options available (case in point, all of these), it can be time-consuming and downright frustrating to figure it out. It may be tempting to “speed date” your way through a bunch of different diets (after all, just like in dating, everyone’s preferences are different). But “dieting around” might not be the best way to go. Here’s how to find the right plan for you.
How to Meet Your Perfect (Weight Loss) Match
Let’s face it: You can’t force yourself to commit to a diet that doesn’t fit your lifestyle. (Just like you couldn’t will yourself to get butterflies for a person who isn’t your type.) Experts agree that if you want to lose weight, you have to experiment. “Some of my patients don’t cook anything while others want to cook everything organic. Trying to get either of them to become the other isn’t realistic,” says Dr. Caroline Cederquist, MD, weight management specialist and founder of bistroMD. “Getting to what works for an individual — that’s key.”
“Anyone can lose weight in the short-term… But what can help you keep that weight off?”
With the variety of diets out there, there’s bound to be one that fits you and makes the pounds melt off. It’s just a matter of shifting through the various options, right? Not quite. While you might be able to nix a date after one whiff of bad breath, you can’t make quick decisions about diets. It requires a fair amount of time and work, as well as trial and error. “It takes a couple of weeks before you see changes,” says Dr. Cederquist. “And it can be fluid changes. You might feel great one week and your weight might be up another week.”
Unlike last week’s crazy blind date, you’ll want to stick with your new healthy habits for at least a month to evaluate their effects on your energy level, mental clarity, sleep, weight and other markers of well-being. Set a few specific, realistic goals, then, evaluate your progress — and whether you were consistent with your new behavior. (You gotta be honest: Did you really get more exercise and sleep, in addition to improving your eating habits?)
Scoring a diet that works for you isn’t as simple as swiping left or right on Tinder. But asking yourself these four questions, recommended by Cederquist and Caroline Kaufman, MS, RDN, might help you meet your fat-melting match a little faster.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Committing to a Diet
1. What’s my cooking style?
To cook or not to cook – that is the question. As you begin to tweak your diet to find what works for you, one of the biggest questions revolves around your cooking style. Do you even like cooking? How much time do you devote to meal preparation tactics like these? Do you like to eat out? Are you responsible for preparing meals for others?
Coming to a better understanding of what you do (and don’t) like about cooking and meal prep will help you hone in on what will succeed in your household. For example, if you only prepare meals in a microwave, the diet that calls for elaborate, homemade organic meals probably won’t last more than a day.
2. What are my eating patterns?
Do you need three meals a day? Or are you a grazer and perpetual late-night snacker? Pinpointing your eating style will help you identify any obstacles that may be getting in your way of losing weight. Knowing your food patterns can help you find a plan that can address those specific challenges and help you establish healthy eating habits so you’re successful in the long-term.
3. Does the plan provide enough protein?
While it might be tempting to replace all your meals with salad or green juice, that might not be the most sustainable way to lose weight. After all, our bodies need protein to build and maintain muscle. Not only that, a protein-rich diet can also help curb your appetite and keep the weight off. When you’re trying a new diet, make sure you’re eating enough protein throughout the day to avoid losing muscle mass, which can decrease your metabolism, according to Dr. Cederquist and Kaufman. (Here’s what 25 grams of protein looks like.)
4. Are the promised results reasonable?
Much like online dating prospects, if a diet seems too good to be true…it might be. How much weight does the diet claim you’ll lose? If you’re hearing claims that you’ll shed 40 pounds in 40 days, or something equally absurd, you might want to steer clear. Both Dr. Cederquist and Kaufman caution that many fad weight loss plans promise results that aren’t attainable and aren’t based on sound nutritional science.
Be sure to watch for plans that are overly restrictive, require combining (or not combining) foods in a highly specific way, or rely on pills or one particular type of food, like grapefruits or cabbage. Verify the source of any research cited, too. Was it published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal? Kaufman also advises checking to see if the plan teaches you about long-term weight maintenance. With prescribed eating plans and lists of what you should and shouldn’t eat, many diet plans don’t teach you how to make healthy choices in the real world.
“Anyone can lose weight in the short-term, whether it’s a cookie bar diet, a juice cleanse or a high-protein, low-carb fest,” says Kaufman. “But what can help you keep that weight off? That’s the only diet you really want to find. And it’s not going to be a diet at all. It’s got to be a lifestyle change.”